IVF and clinical research still on hold


María del Pilar López and Esteban Monge

In 2000, Costa Rica became the first country to pass a total ban on in-vitro fertilisation. This followed a ruling by the Constitutional Chamber, which based its decision on the right to life contained in the Costa Rican Constitution and the American Convention on Human Rights.

As a result, nine infertile couples brought a case against the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that, in November 2012, was decided by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The ruling established that an absolute ban of IVF violates the right to privacy, the right to family and the right to personal integrity. The ruling also acknowledged that infertility was a disease recognised by the World Health Organization and that infertile people should be granted access to fertility treatment. Among the reparations ordered by the court were the reinstitution of access to IVF and the incorporation of access to this technique in the country’s social security administration.

However, as of today, nothing has happened to remove the prohibition of IVF in Costa Rica. Couples have had to travel to other countries to access this medical procedure and thus be able to achieve a pregnancy. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights granted Costa Rica until December 20, 2013 to enact a law regulating the subject. However, this was disregarded by the National Congress and there is still no regulation allowing the technique. Although several bills are being discussed at the National Congress to regulate IVF, there is no consensus due to discrepancies in the number of fertilised eggs allowed, the storage of zygotes and the legality of the technique if it were only available for married women, among others. However, some argue that it is the Constitutional Chamber itself which must endorse IVF, arguing that the effect of the ruling that banned the technique in 2000 is not binding any more.

New members of the National Congress and the Executive Branch will assume office in May 2014, so there is no enthusiasm at the congress to enact a law within the last weeks of the current government. Elsewhere, the Costa Rican Social Security Administration (SSA) has reported that several professionals are being educated abroad to implement the technique.

IVF, SSA, clinical research